Disappointed Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa after a round of 16 loss to the Netheralnds in the FIFA World Cup at the Estadio Castelao on June 29, 2014, in Fortaleza, Brazil. (Photo: FIFA via Getty Images)
FORTALEZA, Brazil – The Netherlands staged a late rally on Sunday to post a 2-1 win over Mexico and advance to the quarterfinals for the fourth time in the last six World Cups.
In a round of 16 encounter played under hot conditions at the Estadio Castelao, Wesley Sneijder and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar both netted in the final minutes for a stunning victory.
The Dutch will next face the winner of the Costa Rica-Greece pairing, which will take place later in the day.
Huntelaar, who came on as second-half substitute for his first appearance of the competition, was pivotal on both goals.
In the 88th minute, at the far post, he headed Arjen Robben’s corner kick back towards the top of the box. There, an unmarked Wesley Sneijder was waiting patiently to thunder home just inside the left post.
Sensing that it could grab a winner before heading to extra time, the Netherlands remained on the attack.
The relentless Robben then dribbled towards the right side of the goal line and attempted to cut inside. Defender Rafael Marquez stuck out a leg and the Bayern Munich star fell to the ground, compelling referee Pedro Proenca to point to the spot.
Huntelaar confidently stepped up to take the kick, driving it inside the left post as goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa dove in the opposite direction in the fourth minute of stoppage.
Mexico, looking to secure a place in the quarterfinals for the first time since 1986, took the initial lead three minutes into the second half.
Giovani Dos Santos gained possession of a bouncing ball with his chest and dribbled towards the middle. While holding off Daley Blind, he unleashed from 26-yards a low left-footed shot that landed just inside right post, beyond the reach of a diving Jasper Cillessen.
It was the 25-year-old’s first World Cup goal in eight all-time games.
Mexico controlled large periods of play, especially in the first half.
In the 17th minute, the outstanding Hector Herrera dragged a right-footed effort beyond the left post after Mexico had difficulty lining up other potential shots. Three minutes later, the Porto midfielder was only thwarted by Ron Vlaar's high kick deflection in the box.
Later, Cillessen was called upon to make a pair of saves, palming away a 36-yard blast off the foot of Carlos Salcido and catching Dos Santos’ drive from the top of the penalty area.
Three minutes ahead of the break, Oribe Peralta played a neat flick to Andres Guardado, who moved the ball quickly ahead to the right side of the box. A sprinting Dos Santos got to the pass and snapped off a right-footed attempt from four-yards out that Cillessen did well to block.
Recognizing the need to intensify its pace of play, the Oranje looked increasingly menacing as the second half wore on, forcing Ochoa into numerous stops. Its efforts paid off as the final whistle drew near.
Mexico’s World Cup campaign ended at the round of 16 hurdle for the sixth consecutive time.